More than a year ago Icon Aircraft petitioned the FAA for an exemption from the LSA max weight limit so it would incorporate the structure that made the A5 fully meet the FAA Part 23 standard for spin resistance. Announcement that the FAA granted that exemption, allowing the amphibious LSA to fly at a max gross weight of 1,680 pounds, started EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on a positive note on July 29.
Some have criticized the FAA for taking 14 months to respond to Icon’s request, but after reading the 17-page exemption document, given the process, the FAA moved with alacrity. Formal petitions for exemptions are like notices of proposed rule making. They must be published in the Federal Register, and people have time to comment on them. And then the FAA must respond to each of those comments.
After working through its process, the FAA said, “the combined design features and SRA [spin resistant airframe] concepts incorporated into the ICON A5 design…are recognized by the FAA as significant safety enhancements.”
And Icon isn’t stopping there. An angle of attack indicator has always been a member of the airplane’s instrument family, but the latest iteration of the panel puts a clearly understood indicator top dead center. And instead of spouting thousands of words about why it’s important, it makes a clear and simple point in a video that shows the AOA indication as the A5 makes a 180-degree turn in a 90 degree bank.
Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins said the first four A5s, which will be dedicated to certification, will come off the line early in 2014. And if all goes according to schedule with a successful conclusion, customers will start flying away their airplanes late in the year. And with candor all too rare when it comes to developing a new product, Hawkins said there is “no free lunch.” The A5 list price, reflecting the SRA structure, more expensive Rotax 912 iS engine, and other features, the list price has increased to $189,000. When one looks at the return of safety and outright enjoyment that this investment makes possible, it is truly one of aviation’s better deals. –Scott Spangler, Editor